Tag Archives: poetry

A Sermon For The Mellow by Chuck Thurston

I took a couple of English courses in college requiring I write poems, and I wrote quite a few. An instructor remarked at the time: “Your poetry is very personal.” This was not a compliment. He explained that my efforts were poems with little meaning to anyone but me. They were sound in structure, but narrow in expression. It represented a view of my personal life and conflicts, but not in a way that illuminated it for anyone else. I was doing little more than writing irate, self-aggrandizing editorials with a rhythm and rhyme scheme.

I was then a young married father, with all of the associated struggles. I had a good job, but knew I would find my level in it sooner or later, and it wouldn’t be all that high. The war in Vietnam was turning into the horror many had feared. The Peace Movement was burgeoning. The skirmishes for civil rights had begun. Smoke was in the air and it wasn’t all gunpowder or tobacco. I was an angry young man. Worse, I bought with unquestioned agreement, into almost every extreme pronouncement that complimented my own resentments. I had become what can easily turn into that most dangerous of humans – The True Believer.

Believers of one stripe or another have been around as long as humankind. That’s a good thing. Belief precedes experiment, which precedes verification, and well – it’s the only way we ever gather the facts on anything. Scientists call it a hypothesis. Copernicus woke up one morning and said to himself, “Gee, I believe the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around!” He was, as it happened, a great mathematician and developed a heliocentric model that made sense. Let me extemporize on that a bit. Copernicus couldn’t prove his belief – but no other mathematical model made sense to him. Those who believed otherwise went to great lengths to construct models that were torturous in their description of how things worked. These models did, however, jibe with the religious dogma of the time. Although Copernicus got away with it, Galileo, born almost a hundred years later, took most of the heat for this hypothesis – almost literally; he was threatened with death at the stake if he didn’t recant. This threat came from – you guessed it – True Believers.

Now there is nothing wrong with true belief on its face. And there is nothing wrong with an enthusiastic and impassioned defense of it. In their time, humans have given unquestioned obeisance to Paleolithic superstitions, Bronze Age myths and legends, Hebrew tribal laws, prophets, shamans and cultists, medieval alchemists, mystics, psychics and self-proclaimed wizards. All of these authorities have vestigial form today, and we have upped the ante with media-fueled baloney by the megaton. You are free to believe any of this you want. Be my guest.

If it were left at that, people could go merrily on their way chasing Bigfoot or hunting down the Appalachian Devil Monkeys. But a lot of True Believers don’t want to leave it at that. True Believers have harassed and taunted women and gays; True Believers have killed, with routine nonchalance, young people who made romantic attachments their families didn’t approve of; True Believers have flown airplanes into skyscrapers; True Believers have concocted bogus evidence to justify inciting wars. Like the old geocentric model makers, True Believers have warped new insights or observable evidence to match their convictions. “If you don’t like the diagnosis,” said the quack surgeon, “we’ll retouch the X-rays!”

I once attended a religious ceremony where a man officiating told me that I was cursed if I did not believe as he believed. I would, he assured me, roast in perpetual torment after I died, unless I adopted his particular beliefs. He did not actually say that he had placed a curse on me, but it wouldn’t be putting too fine a point on it to interpret it that way, if you ask me.

Well, I didn’t believe that for a minute, and would have told him so, but held to manners I had learned at mother’s knee – a lack of which apparently did not trouble him. His position, to be sure, was met with murmurs of approval from a sizeable part of those in attendance – troubling in itself. The rest sat on their hands along with me and accepted their damnation with polite demeanor. He graciously invited anyone troubled by his pronouncements to meet with him after the service, where we would be set straight. I demurred.

The world has become infected by TBs. Countries are torn apart by factions settling scores for perceived slights perpetuated centuries ago. Politicians embrace their way or no way. The Age of Chivalry is dead and the Age of Civility is evaporating. Statesmanship is moribund. Progress is deadlocked because negotiation and collaboration are dirty words.

My cafeteria lunch mates and I used to have heated discussions on the day’s hot topics, and great philosophical issues. There were always a couple of TBs in these groups. I represented a puzzling anomaly to them. I confessed to a profound curiosity about our whereabouts in the hereafter, but no real ideas on whatever might take place or whoever might be going wherever.

“But Thurston, you have to believe in something!” I was told.

Note: TBs often express things this way; to which I say “Why?”

 “It isn’t just a belief,” I told them. “I know for absolute certainty what happens to us when we die!” This always made them hoot. “We will all be recycled,” I said.

Now you can’t argue with that – and they couldn’t. I’m not talking about that spiritual component. I let the TBs work that part out, and keep it to themselves when they do; but – if every atom in our bodies isn’t sentient, then certainly some critical mass of them must be. We’ll find out one way or another in eight billion years or so when the Sun runs out of fuel and that big fusion bomb implodes and gobbles up its planetary children. Think of that. Assuming we ourselves haven’t incinerated everything by then, our urns or caskets will be atomized and the contents will be off on another adventure. I believe, with no evidence to back it up – Jeez, I’m not a TB, after all – that those contents will accrete again, gravity being what it is, and who knows? Not me, not you, not even Stephen Hawking – who has his own views on it, but is smart enough not to advance them as gospel.

I like the way Richard Feynman put it, “I am a universe of atoms, and an atom in the universe.”

Frankly, there is more empirical evidence to support my scenario than there is the fiery pit described by the proselytizer mentioned earlier.

I eventually returned to poetry after I got over the idea that I had to write angry stuff. I couldn’t begin to match up with Sassoon, anyway: “He’s young; he hated war; how should he die/ when cruel old campaigners win safe through?/ But death replied: ‘I choose him.’ So he went,/ And there was silence in the summer night.”

Whooo! No competing with that! I had to set my sights much lower and settled on doggerel. In fact, I discovered that I didn’t have to knock much polish off of my serious stuff to drop down into this stratum. I whacked out a few lines and thought myself pretty good at it! This would be my poetic niche!

The Lightning Bug

 The lightning bug with logic smug,

Lights up the summer skies,

To find a mate and procreate;

Those clever little guys!

 

The logic here is very clear,

To all who empathize.

So, don’t be coy, dear girl and boy;

It pays to advertise!

Now look – my light verse does not mean that I am glib about the woes of the world. I know full well there is suffering and hunger. Humans can rationalize anything, and a lot of TBs have rationalized cruel responses to ideas they can’t make themselves believe. Don’t join that crowd. One amazing feature of our great gift of free will is the ability to hold several opposing views in our brains at one time without going nuts. Hang out with me for a while.

Here is my belief for this day: It is beautiful outside. I believe I will get a good cigar out of my humidor, give myself a healthy pour of something red, sit out on my deck for an hour or so and ponder all of this. You’re welcome to come over and join me. You can pass on the stogie and choose the booze if you want; or maybe light up a cheroot and pass on the vino. You can bag them both and bring your own iced tea. I don’t believe you’ll be cursed any way you go.

Postscript: The air quality code was green, so my wife joined me on the deck. I didn’t get in an hour of private ponder, but she sat upwind of me, had a glass of wine and the company was welcome. Oh, and later that evening, I came across an article by scientists who have lowered the sun’s time to extinction from 8 billion to around 5.8 billion years. We don’t have as much time left as we thought.

Post-postscript – “A Sermon For The Mellow” will be in Chuck Thurston’s next Senior Scribble – “The Bathroom Reader (Your Results May Vary)”. Look for it later this year – if wine and an occasional cigar don’t get him first.

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Should Never

By Jay DuretWoolly Mammoth copy

“A new research report suggests that scientists may be able to recreate an extinct woolly mammoth from its long-frozen DNA.” – New York Times

 

I.

Should never
I see that now.
Twisted by logic
Played by logicians, swept
By the force of cunning argument.
Should never.

Debate will do that.
The river of words
Slow, languorous even, at the edges
Where you first step in.
Gently seductive, gently urging,
Gently gently gently down the stream.
But further, towards the sluicing middle, the current
Irresistible. The logic, the argument, the hard claw of debate.
Irresistible.
I was carried down the stream.
I am sorry.
Should never.

I blame Google.
It is one thing, after all, to search for words.
We do that.
We are human; we have no choice.
But pictures? Images?
This should be taboo.

Once I saw you I could not straighten my thinking.
I knew the arguments, heard the debates,
I have a mind that can hold opposing ideas in balance.
In equipoise.
But the swoop of your ivory. Its magnificent curl.
The rich dignity of your coverings.
As a people, we dream of a coat like your colossal swinging fur coat.
We hear in dreams the deep poundings of your stride
Turning tundra to grassland, step by booming step.

To see your image was to fail you.
Should never.
Should never have brought you,
Woolly Mammoth, Woolly Mammoth,
I should never have brought you back.

II.

I was born in a glass tube in a clinic in LA
Cloned from a morsel of DNA, that DNA exhumed
From a nugget of amber,
Or a bubbling tar pit, or a fossil in the Dakotas.
My papa, not mammoth, not woolly,
A balding man in a white lab coat
With bad breath, like he stunk inside,
Like all humans.
Stunk inside.

I won’t speak human.
Human sounds won’t pass my mouth.
We took a vow, my brothers and sisters,
Even as we dwindled,
Even as the light that burned within us
Flickered
We would never utter words that had been spoken
By humans or their kind.
Poisoned meat. Poisoned grasses.
The rapaciousness of hunters.
The voraciousness of human hunger.
You hunted us down. You ate us up.
All of us.
Extinction.

I know why it is you brought me back.
I know what it is you want.
The debate, the logic, the business with Google; all lies
I know why you brought me back:
You want me to balm you with forgiveness.
You want the gift of words.
But I won’t speak them.

To be extinct is to be beyond words.
Beyond any words, beyond all words,
Human words, mammoth words, it doesn’t matter.
I am beyond words.
I am dead to words.
I won’t speak human.
I took a vow.

 

Should Never originally appeared in the New Verse News

*          *          *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, was published by Indigo Sea Press.  Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. 

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A Gentler Year by J J Dare

The main characters in my writings tend to be reprobates, sinners with tarnished wings, saints with broken crosses, unrepentant narcissists, manipulators and malcontents. These are the bad boys and girls of my literary world.

I’ve occasionally self-analyzed myself about this tendency to write from the viewpoint of characters who are deeply flawed. I like to think my flaws are rather superficial and haven’t burrowed too deeply into my psyche, but when I think about how horrible some of my characters are, I have to wonder about myself.

My writing is based on the real world as I see, experience and understand it. When I ask myself the eternal writer’s question of “What if,” I base the answer (which influences how I write) on what bad things might really happen. While I’ll still write about death, disorder, murder and mystery, I’m making 2013 the year I slowly turn over a different colored leaf.

I’ll try to write more often about life and less about death. Although death is a part of life, for too many years it has dominated mine. I’m ready to drive in a direction I rarely take. A new baby in the house is persuading me to write about the power of life.

Mommaw’s one-handed typing with The Boy supervising

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ll start writing romances. Ughh. No. Or if I do, they’ll be so offbeat you’ll have to really read between the lines to see it as a love story. But, I may try.

I’ll probably finish some of the straight fiction I’ve been working on for, uhm, many years. I might finally get to the bottom of this four-foot tall pile of unfinished literary symphonies.

One more resolution I have for this New Year is to compile several works-in-progress into an anthology. Fun times ahead 🙂

So, in honor of my resolutions to drive down different literary roads and to actually finish old projects, I’ll leave you with a piece I wrote:

Too by JDL

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction

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A Moment of Hope by J J Dare

I’m going to step out of the WordPress room today, but I leave you in good hands with one of my favorite childhood poems (I first read it in a very old book of my mother’s). In your memory, Mom:

Cousins, me and Mom at Aunt Bob’s house

* * * * * * * * *

The Captain’s Daughter by James T. Fields

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep,
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

‘Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, “Cut away the mast!”

So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with Death.

As thus we sat in darkness,
Each one busy with his prayers,
“We are lost!” the captain shouted
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
“Isn’t God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?”

Then we kissed the little maiden.
And we spoke in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbour
When the morn was shining clear.

* * * * * * * * *

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short storiesand triple digit works-in-progress. Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch.

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Geo-Logic

 

 

I stand

in the hard

fields and watch

a hill like a wave,

sweeping toward me,

chalk crumbled crest

of the rolling

land ocean.

 

I can stare

until it topples me;

It is just

a matter of

Time.

 

http://www.julietwaldron.com

 

 

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The acrostic winner is…

A big ‘thank you’ to all who celebrated the release of Love Trumps Logic with me by entering an acrostic in my contest. There were many, many wonderful entries, which made it impossible for me to judge them by myself. I enlisted the help of 8 friends, and the 9 of us picked our top three choices. It was close, with the winner, Lisa Richardson, getting 5 votes. Congratulations, Lisa! Here is her acrostic:

How much I’ve loved,

Opened my heart,

Memories caught in my hands.

Emotions ebb and flow,

One of us has left here far too soon.

Passing the time until we meet again,

All the moments of our lives,

Tangled in each other’s hearts.

How do I continue on alone?

Yet love remains, whispering to my heart.
—-by Lisa Richardson

I’d also like to mention those that got 4 votes each:

Here

On

Mother

Earth

Our

Paths

Align,

Two

Hearts

Yearning
—by Autumn Bosch

Help me,

O my blessed Saviour

My soul is so weary.

Each day as I wake,

Only You can refresh me

Please look my way

And bless me today.

Thank you for Your love;

Happily I serve You.

Your love endures forever!
—by Sherry Myers

Her yearning found completion in my own

Our needs were gratified when needs were fresh

My like was cured by like, the marriage known

Enjoying supple joints and well-toned flesh.

On quarter of a century we’ve slowed

Perhaps you’d think this stillness disappoints

A stream diluted where once torrents flowed

This farce of drooping flesh and failing joints.

How can our love endure this graciously?

Yet blood, like water, has a memory.
—by Brian Martin

Here’s

Our

Meeting place, a place where

Evening meets twilight, crosses, plays

On the deck, shielded by

Persimmon trees, their sour-but-soon-to-be-sweet fruit

Ages, tempts our appetites, even as we kiss.

This is the moment, the time;

Here is an opportunity to love;

You have only to meet me here, hungry.
—by Trish Lindsey Jaggers

Lisa, please send your mailing information to me so that I can send you your prize. You can send it to lucy@lucybalch.com.
Thanks again to everyone!!

Lucy Balch
Love Trumps Logic, from Second Wind Publishing

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We Have Not Lost Poetry

A few years ago I bought a book called The Devil Never Sleeps authored by Romanian ex-patriot Andrei Codrescu.  I had listened to Codrescu for years on NPR, and I was interested in reading his essays (which, by the way, did not disappoint).  As I read his observations about Romania and Eastern Europe under Soviet control, I was struck by his adoration of and faith in poetry.  It’s no exaggeration to say, from Codrescu’s viewpoint, poetry was the source of hope to those who suffered decades of communist despotism as well as a subversive force undermining the monolithic govern

He made such a compelling argument for the purpose, power and necessity of poetry, I had to stop and ask myself what ever happened to poetry.  I loved poetry as a young person and even continued to write poetry as an adult.  Of course, half of being a poet is relishing the poetry of others—and I couldn’t remember the last time I read a volume of verse.

[So I’m giving in to temptation here; this is a poem I wrote when I was sixteen after moving back to my hometown following an absence of four years; do you have adolescent poems you’re still willing to share?

“All The Animals”

I left something here,
            a childhood memory, a melody,
            a bit of soul chipped from the tenderest part.
I thought it was refound
            but something different,
            something animal,
            was in it’s place.
So it does no go to come home
            to all the animals,
            the souls of my childhood changed
.]

For a while, I had a sad, empty feeling when I thought that I had “lost” poetry.  Moreover, I had the sinking feeling that as a people, our culture had lost poetry as well.  Where was the Edna St. Vincent Millay, Walt Whitman or Robert Frost of this age? 

Then one day I was driving down the road listening to Bruce Springsteen and the “aha moment” burst upon me: I haven’t lost poetry; as a people we have not lost poetry—we just set it to music.  I hereby predict that coming generations will “read” the songs of our greatest songsmiths and judge them more as writers than musicians.  Annie Lennox, Sheryl Crow, John Prine, Jackson Browne, Michael Stipe, Natalie Merchant, as well as hosts of R&B and hip-hop artists will be required reading for our great-grandchildren fifty years hence.

This great realization made me reflect back over the songs I’ve written over the years (yes, acoustic guitar and harmonica; but nothing to brag about).  Some of mine, I’m afraid, will not rise to the level of literature (“Harmless While I’m Sober” comes to mind).  But some others—recent as well as distant—may actually be worth reading in coming ages.  Herewith, a song of unrhymed verses I wrote in the early 70’s while I was a college student.  It is like poetry, sort of.  —Lazarus Barnhill, author of The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday.

“Early in the Sun”

Early in the sun I see those high red clouds
            like contrails of some angels God is sending somewhere.

I think of you for minutes, hoping that you will remember me
            without these chains I have been wearing.

I will not ask you lightly for the things you will feel pressed
            to give from loving, for they are yours.

Ah, but if you understand our loves are shorter than our lives,
            then love me quickly, before they pass.

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Filed under Lazarus Barnhill, life, musings, writing